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Government proposes changes to EU residence permits for highly skilled workers

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment
Publication date 15.2.2024 14.04
Press release

On 15 February 2024, the Government submitted a proposal to transpose the amendments required by the EU Blue Card Directive into Finnish legislation. The amendments will apply to non-EU nationals arriving in Finland with a EU residence permit for highly qualified workers, also known as the Blue Card.

The Government’s proposal is based on the reform of the EU Blue Card Directive, which aims to make it easier for highly skilled third-country nationals to enter the European Union. Among other things, the proposal will improve the protection of Blue Card holders in case of unemployment. In future, a Blue Card holder would have at least three months to find a new job after becoming unemployed. Their residence permit could not be withdrawn during this period. If the holder has resided in a country for more than two years, they would have at least six months to look for a job. 

In accordance with the Directive, the withdrawal of a permit immediately after this period would not be required. As there are currently no provisions on a protection period in the Finnish act, the amendment will not make the rules tighter. The EU Member States reached an agreement on the Directive in May 2021.

“Finland needs skilled workers also from abroad. However, the competition for talent is fierce. The reform will improve the protections of international experts working in the EU and make the EU labour market more attractive,” Minister of Employment Arto Satonen says.

Highly qualified workers who wish to come to Finland can choose whether to apply for an EU Blue Card or a national residence permit for a specialist. Changes to the Blue Card will not affect the national permit for a specialist. A Blue Card can be applied for one EU country at a time.

Experts to have more mobility and lower pay requirement

The level of required pay for a Blue Card would be lowered to the same level as for the national permit for a specialist. In 2024, this is EUR 3,638 per month.

In addition, the Finnish act would be amended to ease the mobility of Blue Card holders within the EU, in accordance with the Directive. Blue Card holders are currently required to work in the first country for 18 months before they can move to another country for work using a lighter procedure. In future, only 12 months will be required. It will also become easier for Blue Card holders to work for short periods in another EU country.

The amendments would enter into force as soon as possible. 

As such, the changes are not expected to increase the number of people applying for specialist permits in Finland. One aim of the revised Directive is, however, to increase the visibility of the entire EU area to highly qualified workers, which may also benefit Finland. In 2023, 163 applications for a first-country EU Blue Card residence permit and 1,297 applications for the first national residence permit for a specialist were submitted in Finland. 

Separate proposal for the Government’s three-month rule

The proposed protection period for a Blue Card holders in case of unemployment is separate from the three-month rule included in the Government Programme. The Government is currently preparing a proposal where foreign workers would have to leave Finland if they cannot find a new job within three months after becoming unemployed. For specialists, startup entrepreneurs and ICT experts the period would be six months. 

The Government’s proposal on the three-month rule and the six-month exception for specialists, which will be issued in autumn 2024, will also apply to Blue Card holders. As a result, the time to look for a new job will be the same for both the national permit for a specialist and the Blue Card. Provisions concerning the withdrawal of the permit after the protection period would be laid down at the same time. The three-month rule and its exceptions would enter into force in early 2025.

Veera Svahn, Special Adviser to the Minister of Employment, tel. +358 295 047 321 (questions to the Minister of Employment)
Jarmo Tiukkanen, Senior Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, tel. +358 295 047 355